Involving and quintessentially Australian, Tonsils and Tweezers is a fresh gem full of local laughter, though a range of more pressing themes – many of which will be familiar to almost anyone who went through high school – underlie its jocular tone.
Tweezers (Hoa Xuande) is rapt in his colourfully Beckett-esque repartee with Tonsils (Travis Jeffery), his best friend from school. Supporting characters Beth (Megan Wilding) and Max (James Sweeny) jump in and out of proceedings.
Tonsils and Tweezers are considering whether they should attend their ten-year high school reunion, despite their less than idyllic school memories, which are alluded to throughout.
When the implications of such experiences are unpacked, a key revelation becomes all the more powerful for being inferred rather than explicitly stated. The realisation that this play, against an already surrealist backdrop, has further pulled the rug out from under us creates yet another level of stagely tension.
Performed on a travese stage, the particular placement of the audience permits each actor to use a deeper length of the stage for great dramatic purpose than would typically be possible in a space providing such close proximity to patrons. The opening act, conspicuously involving a few instances of performers shouldered with some of the play’s lengthier sections of dialogue and furtively directing their glare at each end of the theatre, was the rare exception rather than the rule.
Jeffery, doing some of the heavy lifting at these early junctures, delivered some of Tonsils and Tweezers’ funniest moments, including some altogether relatable stabs at the travails of adolescence. His not infrequently hyperrealist temperament of apparent dramatic expediency in the play’s latter half, it is following a key twist that the breadth of his performance has the strongest resonance.
Xuande is at the centre of one of the play’s more sustained and darkly funny instances together with Sweeny, who proffers an in-play recitation of a widely known piece of theatre that joyfully delivers that rare treat of a good actor doing a great job at playing a terrible actor. Wilding, amidst some keen theatrics, brings much needed grounding to some of the play’s less comical, more pivotal moments.
A shrewd, minimal and seamless use of props, together with practised lighting design and a set that resoundingly conveys all it needs to through a clever graphic, further recommends a pleasing and thought-provoking production that is, in all the most memorable ways, ardently Australian.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Tonsils and Tweezers
By Will O’Mahony
A Jackrabbit Theatre production
Directed by Michael Abercromby
With Hoa Xuande, Megan Wilding, Travis Jeffrey and James Sweeny
Kings Cross Theatre
12-27 January 2018